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Spin The Wheel

November 15th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Stone has brewed one truly Epic ale

Stone has brewed one truly Epic ale

There’s an old saying that to win at roulette, you should always bet on black. And there were several dark beers that I tried over the past week that are winners in their own right.

Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale (Stone Brewing Co.; Escondido, CA; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 8.6) is an absolutely outstanding Belgian strong ale. Brewed on a limited basis annually, Epic is both smooth and complex. The rich chocolate taste is complimented by roasted malt, vanilla, orange peel, and spices. The ABV of nearly 9% isn’t very noticeable either, so this ale can definitely sneak up on you. Quite frankly, I like it even better than Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue), and compare it favorably to another outstanding Belgium, Gulden Draak Dark Triple (Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V.; Ertvelde, Belgium; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 10.5). Kudos to Stone for brewing this excellent ale.

Oskar Blues Ten FIDY (Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery; Lyons, CO; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 10.0) has been getting a lot of hype recently, and since I’m a fan of the brewery, it made sense to give this beer a try. I’m pleased to report that this is an excellent stout, with a big bold presence. The taste is an array of milk chocolate, coffee, dark fruit, and roasted malt. Comparable to other outstanding imperial stouts such as Brooklyn Black Ops, Ten Fidy is definitely a beer to be savored.

Keweenaw Widow Maker Black Ale (Keweenaw Brewing Co.; Houghton, MI; Schwarzbier; ABV: 5.2) turned out to be a pleasant surprise. This schwarzbier is quite smooth and very drinkable, with the light chocolate taste balanced by hints of roasted malt, toffee, dark fruit, & nuts. This ale can definitely be a session beer, as it’s a lighter alternative to such outstanding schwarzbiers as Sprecher Black Bavarian.

Last but not least, I asked Tim, the bartender at WOB, to make me a Black Death. A fusion of Guinness Extra Stout & Rogue Dead Guy Ale, this combination was first made famous at The Flying Saucer. Needless to say, it was as good as advertised, and highly recommended.

Abracadabra

September 29th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas 1 comment

Spencer Horsman dazzled the crowd at Illusions...

Spencer Horsman dazzled the crowd at Illusions...

while Jerry Rowan juggled torches, beer, & one liners in Inner Harbor

while Jerry Rowan juggled torches, beer, & one liners in Inner Harbor

Even the Lions found a little magic this past weekend

Even the Lions found a little magic on Sunday

It was a magical weekend in Baltimore this weekend, whether one was catching up with old friends, attending a wedding, or taking in a magic show. The city was hopping as the weather held up until late in the day on Saturday, and even after the rain fell, people were out and about.

There were street performers like Jerry Rowan, whose juggling expertise has been featured on David Letterman. He dazzled the crowd with an act that included everything from juggling torches while riding a unicycle to balancing 2 Coronas and chugging down the bottom one! His tongue was as sharp as his juggling skills.

Anne & I went barhopping one night in Federal Hill, & took in the 10:00 magic show at Illusions. Owned by Ken Horsman, a former professional clown, the bar has a swanky nightclub feel to it. The featured performer, his son Spencer, is an internationally known magician. Young Spencer was indeed a master of illusion, and after entertaining the audience with some card tricks, he capped off the night by escaping from a straitjacket ala Houdini. I even got to assist Spencer in a couple of magic tricks, which added to the fun. Illusions has an excellent beer selection to boot.

There were a few beers sampled this weekend that worked their magic on me. These included the following:

Magic Hat #9; Magic Hat Brewing Co.; Burlington, VT; Fruit / Vegetable Beer; ABV: 4.6. A perfect beer for the magic theme. Very smooth, crisp, & refreshing. The fruity taste, particularly apricots, is balanced by an array of dry malt & light hops.

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout; Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery; Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom; Oatmeal Stout; ABV: 5.0. A classic & chocolaty stout. Very smooth with hints of oats & coffee.

Heavy Seas The Great Pumpkin; Clipper City Brewery; Baltimore, MD; Pumpkin Ale; ABV: 8.0. Another winner from Clipper City. I love a great pumpkin ale, & this is right on the mark. The pumpkin pie taste is complimented by sweet malt & spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. The 8% ABV is barely noticeable.

St. Bernardus Pater 6; Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV; Watou, Belgium; Dubbel; ABV: 6.7. A superb dubbel from St. Bernardus. The taste is a perfect blend of sweet caramel, malt, & dark fruit. One of the best dubbels that I’ve ever had.

Dark Starr Stout; Starr Hill Brewery; Crozet, VA; Irish Dry Stout; ABV: 4.8. Very smooth & creamy chocolate stout. The chocolaty taste is well balanced by a hint of spices & a nice dry finish.

We caught the end of the Lions-Redskins game, at The Greene Turtle at BWI, before flying back to Tampa. The Lions ended their losing spell with a 19-14 win. I know that our Michigan friends are glad that they finally broke through after a 19-game losing streak that dated back to December 2007. As one football analyst from ESPN pointed out, this is the first professional win ever experienced by a player drafted by the Lions in 2008!

In honor of their achievement, I had a Lion Stout (Ceylon / Lion Brewery Ltd.; Biyagama, Sri Lanka; Foreign Stout; ABV: 8.0) at Shakespeare’s. The big dark chocolate taste up front is complimented by sweet cherries, roasted malt, coffee, & a hint of licorice.

And last but not least, congratulations to the Yankees for working some magic of their own in a sweep of the Sox, clinching the AL East & home field advantage!

Make Mine A Flash Gordon

July 30th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas 3 comments

Dynamic Duo: Gordon Imperial IPA + Dogfish 60 Minute IPA...

Dynamic Duo: Gordon Imperial IPA + Dogfish 60 Minute IPA...

equals one incredible IPA

equals one incredible IPA

In the mix ‘n match world of beer, there’s the Black & Tan (Guinness Stout + Bass Ale), Black Velvet (Guinness Stout + cider, e.g. Strongbow), & Shandy (Harp Lager + Sprite), among others. But have you ever had a Flash Gordon?

The brainchild of beer aficionado John “Flash” Gordon and Shamrock Pub bartender Jackie, the brew is one part Dogfish 60 Minute IPA (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.0) & two parts Gordon Imperial IPA (Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery; Lyons, CO; Double India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.7). They compliment each other perfectly to create one hell of an IPA! John agreed with me that the Gordon Imperial IPA is probably the best beer we’ve ever drank out of a can, but felt that it needed a little extra on tap. The Dogfish 60 Minute IPA provided that little extra. Jackie worked her magic, and served it in the Dogfish Head shaped pint glass.

My thanks to John for the recipe, and to Jackie for putting it together. I recommend the Flash Gordon to anyone who wants to try something a little different, and with a kick!

Draught Picks

July 21st, 2009 Bill Zavorskas 2 comments

While Guinness is great out of the bottle...

While I enjoy Guinness straight out of the bottle...

It's a first round selection on draught

it's a first round draught selection

While some beers taste great out of the bottle, e.g. Ola Dubh Special 16 Reserve from Harviestoun and St. Bernardus Abt 12 come to mind, the majority of beers taste fresher on tap. A good tap line can really determine the taste as well. A good beer like Guinness 250th Anniversary Stout can truly stand out when a tap line is functioning well, while an excellent ale like Rodenbach Classic (Red) can taste like Manischewitz when the tap lines are bad.

Anne & I decided to try one of Sarasota’s best kept secrets, The Shamrock Irish Pub this past Saturday. We heard from reliable sources that they poured the best pint of Guinness in town, so it was a no brainer to check it out.

Suffice to say The Shamrock did disappoint. The lovely Jackie was bartending that day, and she poured a textbook pint of Guinness Draught (Guinness Ltd.; Dublin, Ireland; Irish Dry Stout; ABV: 5.0). It’s truly the best on draught in town, and went well with the pizza that we ordered from a nearby spot. The pub has a nice neighborhood feel, and in addition to a great beer selection (11 on tap plus 80+ in bottles), it has live music on weekends.

In addition to the Guinness, I tried several other beers on tap that day:

Shipyard Export Ale; Shipyard Brewing Co.; Portland, ME; American Pale Ale; ABV: 5.0. A smooth drinking APA. A very buttery taste balanced by maple malt (maple) & a hoppy bite at the end.

Shipyard Summer Ale; Shipyard Brewing Co.; Portland, ME; American Pale Ale; ABV: 5.1. Another APA offering from Shipyard. The crisp, wheat taste is complimented by sweet malt & citrusy hops. A nice session beer for the summer.

Hell Or High Watermelon Wheat Beer; 21st Amendment Brewery; San Francisco, CA; Fruit / Vegetable Beer; ABV: 5.2. An eclectic & very refreshing beer. A nice array of watermelon & wheat. Another recommendation for a summer session beer.

The Shamrock offers a rotating draught list that includes such outstanding ales as Dogfish 120 Minute IPA & Gordon Imperial IPA, so I definitely recommend stopping in for a visit when you’re in town.

Favorite Beers

April 13th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Yours Truly

Yours Truly

Here is a list of my Favorite Beers. I have listed them in alphabetical order, along with the brewery, location, style, ABV content, and some comments for your reference.

A – J

Anchor Steam Beer; Anchor Brewing Co.; San Francisco, CA; Steam Beer; ABV: 4.9. An absolute classic. Crisp & dry with a light hoppy balance.

Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock; Privatbrauerei Franz Inselkammer KG / Brauerei Aying; Aying, Germany; Doppelbock; ABV: 6.7. A superb doppelbock. Rich malty taste with hints of sweet chocolate & spicy hops. Wunderbar!

Bell’s HopSlam Ale; Bell’s Brewery, Inc.; Kalamazoo, MI; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 10.0. Uber hoppy with a taste of honey.

Blithering Idiot; Weyerbacher Brewing Co.; Easton, PA; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.1. A beer to be savored; sweet & slightly fruity with a hint of caramel. If you drink more than one or two of these, the name of this beer will be very appropriate!

Bock of the Bat; Ellicott Mills Brewing Co.; Ellicott Mills, MD; Maibock; ABV: 7.0. An excellent bock with a roasted, malty taste balanced with dark fruit.

Brewer’s Art Ozzy Ale; Brewer’s Art; Baltimore, MD; Belgian Strong Pale Ale; ABV: 7.3. Smooth & crisp, with a slight peppery finish at the end.

Brewer’s Art Resurrection; Brewer’s Art; Baltimore, MD; Dubbel; ABV: 7.2. Strong & flavorful, but not too sweet.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout; Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn, NY; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 10.6. Very flavorful with hints of roasted malt & chocolate.

Brooklyn Black OPS (2008); Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn, NY; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 11.0. Another great Russian Imperial stout from Brooklyn. Like a chocolate milkshake with a kick!

Brooklyn Lager; Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn, NY; American Amber; ABV: 5.2. A classic red lager with a crisp, clean taste.

Brother Adam’s Bragget Ale; Atlantic Brewing Co.; Bar Harbor, ME; Bragott; ABV: 11.8. Similar to a Barley Wine. Very flavorful with a hint of honey.

Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue); Bières de Chimay (Abbaye Notre Dame de Scourmont); Baileux (Chimay), Belgium; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 9.0. The gold standard of Belgium strong ales. A nice balance of caramel, roasted malt, & dark fruit.

Chocolate Stout; Rogue Ales Brewery; Newport, OR; American Stout; ABV: 6.0. Uber chocolate taste with hints of roasted malt & hops.

Corsendonk Pater Abbey Brown Ale; Brouwerij Corsendonk; Oud-Turnhout, Belgium; Dubbel; ABV: 7.5. A bold, spicy taste with hints of dried fruit.

Dead Guy Ale; Rogue Ales Brewery; Newport, OR; Maibock; ABV: 6.5. Classic maibock. Smooth taste is well balanced between the hops & sweet malt.

Dogfish Burton Baton; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 10.0. A bold & refreshing double IPA.

Dogfish Immort Ale; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.0. Taste is smooth, creamy, & slightly hoppy at the end, with a hint of oak.

Dogfish Olde School Barley Wine; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Barley Wine; ABV: 15.0. A complex beer that’s extreme in its taste. Worth every sip.

Dogfish Palo Santo Marron; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; American Brown Ale; ABV: 12.0. Crafted in tanks made of Paraguayan Palo Santo wood, this is a unique beer. Roasted malt up front is balanced by sweet caramel & vanilla, with a slightly woody bitterness.

Flying Dog Double Dog Double IPA; Flying Dog Brewery; Frederick, MD; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 11.5. Big hoppy bite balanced by toasted malt.

Gordon Imperial IPA; Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery; Lyons, CO; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.7. Very drinkable; spicy with a citrus appeal. Great either on tap or in the can (best beer I’ve ever had out of a can).

Green Flash Barleywine Style Ale (Vintage); Green Flash Brewing Co.; Vista, CA; Barley Wine; ABV: 10.0. Surprisingly hoppy for a barley wine. Well balanced by hints of malt & caramel.

Green Flash Imperial IPA; Green Flash Brewing Co.; Vista, CA; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 9.0. Smooth, nutty, & spicy. Along with Stone’s Ruination IPA, also out of the San Diego area, the best IPA I have ever drank.

Guinness Extra Stout (Original); Guinness Ltd.; Dublin, Ireland; Irish Dry Stout; ABV: 6.0. Classic Irish stout. My goto beer in many bars.

Heavy Seas Below Decks (Barley Wine Style Ale); Clipper City Brewery; Baltimore, MD; Barley Wine; ABV: 10.0. A wonderful, English style barley wine.

Heavy Seas Holy Sheet (Uber Abby Ale); Clipper City Brewery; Baltimore, MD; Belgian Strong Ale; ABV: 9.0. Holy s—! An Abbey ale with a dark, fruity taste complimented by a bit of spiciness.

Heavy Seas Loose Cannon (Hop3 Ale); Clipper City Brewery; Baltimore, MD; India Pale Ale; ABV: 7.3. Very smooth; well balanced between the malt base & citrus hoppiness.

Jai Alai IPA; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; India Pale Ale; ABV: 7.5. One of the smoothest tasting IPAs around. A nice balance of piney hops & malt.

John Barleycorn Barley Wine Ale; Mad River Brewing Co.; Blue Lake, CA; Barley Wine; ABV: 9.5. Very balanced and highly drinkable.

John Courage Amber; Scott & Newcastle UK Ltd.; Edinburgh, Scotland (UK); English Pale Ale; ABV: 4.7. Very crisp & clean tasting amber ale. I hope that Newcastle redistributes it back in the USA.

K – Z

Maharaja; Avery Brewing Company; Boulder, CO; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 10.5. An absolute hop monster, with a bold grapefruit taste and a nice dry finish.

Nethergate Old Growler; Nethergate Brewery Co., Ltd.; Claire, Suffolk, United Kingdom; English Porter; ABV: 5.5. Very bold & flavorful with a chocolate malt feel.

Ola Dubh Special 16 Reserve; Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.; Alva Clackmannanshire, Scotland (UK); Old Ale; ABV: 8.0. A superior ale aged in a 16 year old whiskey cask. Similar to an Imperial Porter; robust with an exceptional finish.

Old Crustacean; Rogue Ales Brewery; Newport, OR; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.3. Now there’s a barley wine! Very hoppy, sweet, with a strong yet smooth alcoholic taste. Savor this one.

Old Engine Oil; Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.; Alva Clackmannanshire, Scotland (UK); Old Ale; ABV: 6.0. A smooth, caramel taste with a hint of roasted malt & chocolate.

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout; North Coast Brewing Co.; Fort Bragg, CA; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 9.0. Expresso & sweet chocolate flavors are balanced by a slightly hoppy presence.

Oliver’s Best Bitter; The Wharf Rat/Oliver Breweries Ltd.; Baltimore, MD; English Bitter; ABV: 4.8. Clean, crisp taste with a dry bitter finish. Compares favorably to classic English bitters.

Oliver’s Hot Monkey Love; The Wharf Rat/Oliver Breweries Ltd.; Baltimore, MD; Old Ale; ABV: 11.0. A great winter warmer ale. Comparable to Thomas Hardy’s Ale.

Rodenbach Classic (Red); Brouwerij Rodenbach N.V.; Roeselare, Belgium; Flanders Red Ale; ABV: 5.0. Tart & sweet with a sour cherry bite. An extremely drinkable Belgium red ale.

Salvator Doppel Bock; Paulaner Salvator Thomasbraeu AG; Munchen, Germany; Dopplebock; ABV: 7.9. A sweet malty taste complimented by hints of caramel & chocolate.

Samuel Adams Double Bock (Imperial Series); Boston Beer Co.; Boston, MA; Doppelbock; ABV: 9.5. Smooth drinking & well balanced doppebock. Sweet malt with a hint of dark fruit. Hard to believe the ABV is 9.5!

Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock; Boston Beer Co.; Boston, MA; Bock; ABV: 5.6. A rich, cocoa chocolate taste with hints of caramel & vanilla.

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout; Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery; Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom; Oatmeal Stout; ABV: 5.0. Very smooth with hints of oats & coffee.

Samuel Smith’s The Famous Taddy Porter; Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery; Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom; English Porter; ABV: 5.0. A creamy, coffee tasting porter balanced by hints of chocolate & malt.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale (2009); Sierra Nevada Brewing Co; Chico, CA; Barley Wine; ABV: 9.6. A very complex ale. Hoppiness is surprising for a barley wine.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.; Chico, CA; India Pale Ale; ABV: 7.2. Bold & hoppy, with a zesty, citrus appeal. The best of Sierra’s excellent line of IPAs.

Skullsplitter; Orkney Brewery; Orkney, Scotland (UK); Barley Wine; ABV: 8.5. Hard to categorize..is it a barley wine, wee heavy, or both? Big malt presence with hints of caramel & raisins.

Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale; Smuttynose Brewing Co.; Portsmouth, NH; Pumpkin Ale; ABV: 6.0. A very enjoyable pumpkin ale. Like drinking a pumpkin pie!

Smuttynose Wheat Wine; Smuttynose Brewing Co.; Portsmouth, NH; Wheat Wine; ABV: 10.7. A big, bold wheat wine with a well balanced array of barley, wheat, & fruit.

Southern Tier Harvest Ale; Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB); ABV: 5.2. A very drinkable ESB. The citrusy taste is well balanced by a hint of sweet malt.

Southern Tier Pumking; Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Pumpkin Ale; ABV: 9.0. The best of the pumpkin ales. Bold & spicy.

Southern Tier Unearthly; Southern Tier Brewing Company; Lakewood, NY; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 11.0. A wonderful full bodied Imperial IPA. Citrusy hops with a hint of sweet malt.

Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale; Stone Brewing Co.; Escondido, CA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 7.2. A burst of citrus hoppiness with an smooth, oak aftertaste.

Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine 2009 Double Dry Hopped; Stone Brewing Co.; Escondido, CA; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.3. A very drinkable barley wine. Big hoppy presence is balanced by sweet malt & spices.

Stone Ruination IPA; Stone Brewing Co.; Escondido, CA; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 7.7. Like an IPA on steroids! Very hoppy with a grapefruit-like taste. The San Diego area does hops right (see Green Flash Imperial IPA above).

St. Bernardus Abt 12; Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV; Watou, Belgium; Quadrupel; ABV: 10.5. A wonderfully complex balance of spices, ripe fruit, & sweet malt. A truly outstanding Belgium quad.

Thomas Hardy’s Ale; O’Hanlon’s Brewing Co; Clyst St. Lawrence, United Kingdom; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.7. Full bodied & smooth with a hint of fruit. Definitely a beer to be savored…slowly.

Three Philosophers Belgian Style Blend (Quadrupel); Brewery Ommegang; Cooperstown, NY; Quadrupel; ABV: 9.8. An excellent quad with a sweet, malty taste balanced by hints of sour cherries.

Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout; Otter Creek Brewery; Middlebury, VT; Oatmeal Stout; ABV: 5.9. An array of roasted mailt, chocolate, oats, & barley with a slightly hoppy finish. A very tasty organic beer.

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout; Wells & Young’s Ltd.; Bedford, United Kingdom; Sweet Stout; ABV: 5.2. Sweet, milk chocolate flavor with a slight malty aftertaste.

St. Paddy’s Is Approaching

March 14th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas 1 comment

As I write this, we are 3 days away from St. Patrick’s Day. In addition to the usual holiday classics – Guinness, Beamish, Murphy’s, Harp, Killian’s etc., may I suggest a few additional brews to get your Irish up?

Celtic Fury (DuClaw Brewing Co.; Bel Air, MD; Irish Dry Stout; ABV: 5.5): Refreshing with a clean finish. Comparable to Murphy’s Irish Stout.

Dunedin Nitro Stout (Dunedin Brewery; Dunedin, FL; Irish Dry Stout; ABV: 4.8): Smooth, drinkable beer from one of my favorite local breweries (along with Tampa Bay Brewing Co.). Comparable to Guinness Extra Stout or Murphy’s Irish Stout.

As a footnote, this brewery also put out a very drinkable beer called Celtic Gold Ale. While it has the Celtic theme, it’s a Kolsch style ale.

Iron Rat Oatmeal Stout (Tampa Bay Brewing Co.; Tampa, FL; Oatmeal Stout; ABV: 8.0): Big, bold taste. Nice balance of milk chococlate & oatmeal. Comparable to Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout.

Lobster Ale (Belfast Bay Brewing Co.; Belfast, ME; American Amber / Red Ale, ABV: 5.0): A very drinkable red ale. Balanced with a clean finish. Comparable to Killian’s Red.

McGovern’s Oatmeal Stout (Belfast Bay Brewing Co.; Belfast, ME; Oatmeal Stout; ABV: 6.5): Another suggestion from Belfast Bay. A rich malty taste with a hint of chocolate. Comparable to Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout.

O’Reilly’s Irish Stout (Sly Fox Brewing Co.; Phoenixville, PA; Irish Dry Stout; ABV: 3.6): A dry, roasted flavor with hints of coffee. Comparable to Guinness Draught or Beamish Irish Stout.

St. Rogue Red (Rogue Ales Brewery; Newport, OR; American Amber / Red Ale; ABV: 5.1): A very refreshing & flavorable red ale. A suped up Killian’s Red.